Hence embedded in the divine and righteous mobile Man Chair slurping convenience store coffee, puffing away on a 262 Revere Robusto, and spraying blue windshield juice like a crop duster, I found myself thinking about balls.
No, you pig, not like that. I'm talking about friends with balls. No, you pig, not like that. I'm talking about the friends I have made that are part of the cigar industry that we love so much...and that includes many folks who I only have, at this point, a very small casual acquaintance with. The fact that you are reading this tells me that you probably know them too, or would like to. They are the people who have really changed the industry since the boom of the late 90's when I became a cigar smoker. They are the people who had a passion, an idea, a vision, a desire, or, in some cases, a mental illness that eventually brought them into my circle of friends, or awareness. They are the boutique cigar brand owners. These people have got a lot of balls.
Think about it. Many of these folks started out just like you and me...cigar smokers. Probably couldn't find Esteli on a freakin' map, or Connecticut, for that matter. Shit, we've all thought about it. "Man, I'd love to have my own cigar brand. That would be awesome, man." Right about then, the wife tells you you smell like Winston Churchill's underpants, and the kid's college tuition bill hits the mailbox. And just like that, you're back on a plastic lawn chair out in the cold garage with your feet up on the lawnmower suckin' on a lancero.
It was different with these people. The passion, desire, mental illness was clear. The force was strong with them. And they took a risk. (The biggest risk I've taken lately was spinach on a $5 footlong.) They borrowed money, mortgaged homes, made connections, researched, learned, listened, asked questions, listened more, quit well-paying jobs, traveled...a lot, ran up credit card debt, tested marriages, missed time with their kids, ate shitty food, drove the wheels off their cars, stayed in lousy hotels, suffered rejection, miscalculations, and even lawsuits. They cold-called, shook thousands of hands, made deals, got burned more than once, and drank a lot of bad coffee. They were often the boss and accounts payable, accounts receivable, marketing, public relations, human resources, housekeeping, shipping & receiving, and travel agent. They tweeted, blogged, and Facebooked. All that, sometimes before there was any profit.
And for what? So we could sit on our ass and smoke exquisite f*#king cigars.
THAT, my fellow lovers of the leaf, takes monumental balls.
Here's the real clincher. Ask any of these people if it was worth it...if they'd do it again, and I'll bet most, if not all, would tell you it was, and they would. Balls.
So, the next time you're in the company of one of these people, remember this, and use the opportunity to personally thank them for their enormous balls. Because without their balls, we'd be left scratching ours.
...and that's the way I see it...From the Man Chair.
Roses are red. Violets are blue. Yadda yadda yadda. It's Blowin' Smoke #174
Armed with a brand new Cigar of the Day, and a brand new Cretin named Stephanie, it was a great day to burn a few with friends. We talked about Valentine's Day and what are good gifts for the ladies and the gents, plus we question whether or not it is a BS holiday in the first place.
We also checked our listeners' voicemail and emails including one about good manners in a cigar shop for the customer and the proprietor. And we offered up commentary on things like the increase in personal grooming injuries, clothing that turns transparent when you are turned on, college courses in sex, some unusual criminal activity, and more. Plus, what the chicks are reading and a new 5 Things from our newest Cretin.
So, grab your valentine and a fine cigar and check out Blowin' Smoke #174!
I've had the distinct pleasure of getting to know George Rodriguez here in the 'Burgh, not only as the Founder & President of the exceptional boutique cigar brand Rodrigo Cigars, but as a friend. I am thrilled to see Rodrigo Cigars scoring high marks and earning a growing fan base. It's about time I tossed George into a Quick 6. Let's do it!
#1 What the hell are you doing?
GR: Lots going on! First on the company side - Rodrigo is building its executive team and board of directors. I've been recruiting some incredible leadership talent. These guys are players in their respective industries and they are also passionate cigar smokers. We are working on new ways to expand the relationship between smokers, shops and Rodrigo. For Rodrigo it's all about connecting people over great smokes.
We now have an awesome distribution channel with Emilio Cigars. This relationship has opened many doors to new shops in the past few months and we expect an outstanding IPCPR show along side our colleagues at House of Emilio.
New blends! The long awaited Corona Project Sumatra and Broadleaf. Haven't decided which to release yet. We also have the Cinco 5 Brazilian Arapiraca (codename #HYFR). Both of these will be limited releases coming out just in time for better cigar smoking weather. And we're still making improvements to the core lines; Habano Clasico and Boutique Blend now sport Cuban Triple Caps (Tres Vueltas). This is a very nice detail on any cigar and the Rodrigo smokers are definitely worth the extra effort of creating a cigar to be admired with the eyes and the palette.
#2 Maybe I got ahead of myself there. How did Rodrigo cigars happen?
GR: That's a long story that is detailed on RodrigoCigars.com/our_story, but I can tell you that it was a matter of intention, desire and the universe working its ways to bring people together for a purpose. I took a chance and followed my passion. I believe it's so important in life to get outside of your comfort zone because that's where real life is, that's where you're going to grow, that's where you find freedom... and that's what I mean when I say "smoke well, live rich."
#3 The Rodrigo Habano Classico, Boutique Blend, and La Fortaleza have all been very well received...and the La Fortaleza hit #3 in the 2012 Cretins Prime Nine! Tell us about each line...their tobacco, sizes, and something personal for you about each of them.
Habano Clasico was my first release and it's a cigar that continues to amaze me and it converts new fans everyday. It's actually a hybrid Habano/Sumatra wrapper that has tons of flavor, complexity and balance. Smoke this cigar first thing and your day will be outstanding! I plan on making this cigar forever. How many cigar makers can say that their first blend is as timeless as that?! And as you know, the lancero has been known to induce addictive behaviors, so fair warning ;)
Boutique Blend came next and honestly this cigar was made in response to the large RG craze. There's the G4 G5 G6, (54, 56, 60 respectively). When planning this blend I knew I didn't want just another one note large RG cigar. I wanted to keep the complexity going like we did with Habano Clasico. So we added some interesting tobaccos, all grade A, and used an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper. If you've smoked the CyB you'll taste similar notes. Extremely enjoyable flavors... and don't forget the retrohale on this one - think "french toast".
After gaining some confidence with my first two releases, La Fortaleza was my first chance to really step it up. It started as a DR puro but that proved too difficult to keep up with. The yield from the DR San Vicente wasn't good enough. In the end, six fantastic tobaccos were sourced for this cigar. Sumatra Ecuador wrapper, DR Olor binder, Habano 2000, Corojo, Criollo 98 and a sixth varietal that I can't disclose. All ligero primings but an incredibly smooth and enjoyable blend. Most people don't believe it's a Dominican cigar but this is the blend that is really putting us on the map. Traditional vitolas starting with the corona "Absoluto", robusto extra "Forte", churchill "Elegante" and the large 6x55 "Cinco 5".
#4 What do you enjoy most in the process of bringing a new cigar to market? The least?
GR: I enjoy the creative process the most. Just getting inspired from whatever cigar I'm smoking and the music I'm listening to while I'm on a long drive. I can come up with a hundred ideas while I'm in the zone like this. When I have something good in mind then I go to William Ventura and his son Henderson and we let the tobacco drive the rest of the project. Blending is the most fun of all, especially when you have some great tobaccos to work with.
I guess I really can't say I dislike anything in particular about this business but it gets a little crazy for me when I'm trying to make cigars, develop packaging and sell them. I'm a terrible multi-tasker (just ask my wife!) and cigar makers have to wear many hats and be in many places at the same time!
#5 The Rodrigo laboratory is in the Dominican. What do you say to folks who may dismiss a Dominican cigar out of hand as being mild?
GR: I hand them a La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Chisel and tell them to call me in the morning.
But I'm always happy to talk about what's going on in DR. Now, I can only speak for the growers that I work with, but I can tell you that there are some extremely passionate folks that are cultivating tobacco in "small batch mode" using only Cuban seed. They plant one varietal per farm so there's very little cross pollination. This gives us a very distinct crop using traditional Cuban seeds like Habano Vuelto Abajo and Corojo Original. The tobacco is cured over 45-60 days without heat. This is crucial because if the curing isn't right then you can't make up for it down the road. Lots of farms in Nicaragua and DR heat their tobacco to speed the process over 15 days but we don't like to use that stuff because it tends to produce a harsh smoke that hits you in the back of the throat. It may feel like a nice strong robust smoke but it's not very enjoyable long term. As you may know, DR is still the largest producer of cigars and therefore it is home to many of the "Budweisers" of our industry. Large scale operations tend to grow lots of different tobacco on large farms and the tobacco can get somewhat homogenized in my opinion. This is great for consistency and mass production but not for distinctive tobacco like what we have in Rodrigo and other great boutique cigars coming out of DR today.
#6 When you are in Pittsburgh, the three things you have to do are...?
GR: That's easy...
1. Take in the view from Mt. Washington.
2. Eat at Primanti Bros in The Strip.
3. After you're done with your sandwich, stroll down to Penn and 22nd and smoke a Rodrigo at the world famous Leaf & Bean!
Back after a Valentine's Day hunger strike, it's Blowin' Smoke #175!
The Cretins gathered around for a brand new Cigar of the Day, loaded up on Sumatra coffee, and thought about the big Hollywood awards show and small cigars with our friends on Twitter. Plus, wishful potato chip flavors, butt dialing from prison, getting friendly with pit bulls, stabby three-ways, and lots more.
As always, there's a new installment of what the chicks are reading, as well as 5 Things.
So, grab your own oscar, light up a fine cigar and join the herf on Blowin' Smoke #175!